Sunday, May 30, 2010

Home, sweet home

Well, it's good to be back. I LOVE cruises, but it's always nice to be back in the land of decent sized showers ... and soft beds ... and cellphone/internet access! Today is our first day home, and so far have spent it getting the house picked up, clothes washed, and going to collect our fuzzy dogs and sugar glider. The dogs are so glad to be home, lol! What a ruckus. Haven't been to the barn yet; it's been pop up thunderstorms and rain showers so far today. Will go out tomorrow and ride a few and clean some stalls. Won't be riding Tiki; my friend Nicole hopped on him for me Wednesday, and reported that he has a missing shoe ... that won't be replaced until Tuesday:( So, he gets an extra day off!

Well, all I have to report is my final ride before leaving out Friday. Thursday, I set up some gymnastics. I had wanted a few oxers, but we just don't have but 3 sets of standards; so a few oxers is literally that; 2. Ended up doing quiet 1 strides as well, rather than 2 strides. I set a trot pole to a crossrail; 1 stride to the cav stack, low; 1 stride to a plain vertical; 1 stride to the barrel vertical (the barrel is SORT of an oxer, right??). The cav stack when it's low is about 2'3. Set the vert and the barrel at 2'6. He warmed up great, felt very soft and forward in my hand. I was carrying my crop, STILL trying to just get comfortable with it again. Worked some lovely transitions, and purposely avoided letting him get too close to the gymnastics. Cantered a pole to warm up, then trotted into the gymnastic stone cold; didn't let him look at it at all first. Yeah, no. As he trotted into the crossrail, he sucked back majorly. Rather than USE MY CROP, I sort of froze and held on. Jumped UP over the crossrail, and was so far away from the stack, it was sheerly self preservation that he ran out. I did use my crop at that point, for the runout. Gave in, and stood him in front of the crossrail ... then the stack ... then the vert. Gave him another pop behind my leg before coming in again. This one was better. He still backed off a little coming in, but I used my spur, clucked, and he clocked through no problem. Did it twice more, turning right then left afterwards, and it was perfect.

Hopped off and raised to barrel to 3', and the vert to 2'9. Came through again, and he knocked down the vert, but jumped out nicely over the barrel. Reset the jump, then came through twice more, REALLY concentrating on MY position, and me helping him as much as possible. Those 2 times felt GREAT. The distances were perfect; just a teeny bit tight to help him rock back and really rotate his shoulder and use his back. It was hot, and he felt a little tired, but I'd had a plan and I was determined to stick to it. Raised the barrel to 3'6, and the vert to 3'3, and the stack to 3'. I was a little nervous about the height hike so abruptly, but it was too hot and too hard to go more gradually. Took a deep breath, very gently tapped with the crop , and trotted in. Crossrail (perfect), closed my leg to stack (perfect), clucked and leg to vert (perfect), clucked again and REALLY closed my leg to barrel (perfect). He cracked his back pretty hard over the barrel; it was scary with all that daylight between the barrel and the pole, lol! Now, the famous one. more. time. Any of y'all know that have been reading my blog from the beginning know that it's the one. more. time. that always gets me. I've quit before on him going through perfect once, but I felt strongly that I wanted to reinforce and go through again now that he's gained some experience and some maturity. Of course, it wasn't perfect.

Crossrail (perfect), stack (little left drift), vert (BIG left drift), runout at barrel. This is where eyes on the ground would have helped. If I'd corrected him at the stack, all would have been fine. Since I was focused on helping him and staying out of his way, I missed the drift until it was too late. Gave 3 good smacks behind my left leg, and came through with more support this time. Felt a little hesitation at the vert, so I clucked hard, sat UP, and used my spur. Grabbed a BIG handfull of mane with the left hand, and he went. Jumped the SNOT out of the barrel, WOW. If I hadn't had my stirrups tied to the girth, I would have probably gotten seriously jumped out of the tack, haha! Overall, it did feel pretty good, so I let him quit. That was definitely the hardest gymnastic he's ever done; and the 2 strides probably would have been easier, but the quiet one really made him use himself and work hard. I was very proud; he was GREAT. Gave him a bath and a kiss, and now I'm just waiting to see him tomorrow! Jeff Cook clinic in 2 weeks and counting (YIKES)!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's that time of year ...

... where we head out of town for our vacation! So my wonderful readers, know that in just 10 short days, I hopefully will have something to say, haha! It has been a BEAUTIFUL week. Today is was a GREAT temp; still warm, but not horrifyingly hot. My updates are as follows:

Yesterday I invited an old lesson student of mine out to the barn to ride Tiki while I rode Audrey. She hasn't sat on a horse in 7 years, yikes! (yes, she's VERY sore today!) The interesting part is she's only 4 foot and change; she's TINY:) He was so damn cute; he just makes me smile. As I've said before, I get ALMOST as much pleasure watching him as I do riding him. He just makes me so proud; he w/t/c on the rail both ways and was just picture perfect. Took a little bit of advantage and did some corner cutting, but certainly nothing school-horse worthy. Hopped over a cav several times and just took care of my "kid" (she's not a kid anymore!).

Today, decided to RIDE in his pasture. Usually, I just walk hills. Today, I felt like doing some "cross training". Walked up the steep hill, hacked through the "trail" section, then made my way to the relatively flat section that's right by the road. The waist high grass had finally been bush hogged, so it was ... thick up there. He worked hard. I w/t both directions, asking him to use himself and bend, and go straight; just like if we were in the ring. Cantered, and he was so lofty in his canter, I just could. not. sit. his canter, lol. Imagined a dressge ring set up, and rocked our BN dressage test. I imagine if I'd had actual rails with letters it would have been half way decent. The flat top really is still pretty undulating; it's not as flat as the front pasture I used to ride in all the time. I STILL really need to do some bit experimentation, I think. When I work him in a frame in the pasture, he really wants to yank me down and get me to loosen the reins; which is FINE if we're trail riding. NOT if we're working. I have no idea what direction to go in, though. I just can't afford to spend the big bucks on $$ Sprenger/Stubben bits if I don't even know what he likes. Any and all suggestions are always welcome;)

Decided I am going to set up some of my own xc jumps in that pasture. Found an uber tiny railroad crosstie to trot over, and worked on my new found resolve to trot up to an unfamiliar jump with NO looking prep time. He was fine. Wanted to land and GALLOP, though:) AND, that particular "jump" is on a pretty nice grade. Went up and down the hill, and he was good. Saw SEVERAL lovely fallen trees that would make great jumps; just have to clear the junk from around them and make sure the footing is A-ok. Took him over to where there are a few small natural ditches. Uh, yeah, he was so unimpressed he cantered through them until I found one wide enough he actually sort of jumped. Again, he was a little pre-occupied with wanting to gallop:) Marched him over to the pond and asked him to go in. A little stop and snort, so I used my crop and squeezed with the spur. He backed up. Waited patiently, and asked again with my leg and he went in like a big boy. Came out , and repeated 3 more times until no hesitation at ALL. Finally got up in 2-point and let him 'racehorse' gallop for just a second before cooling him out and giving him a nice Vetrolin sponging.

Tomorrow I plan to set a gymnastic. Maybe do 2 strides between every element, I think. There will definitely be an oxer or 2 in there:) Talk to y'all when I get back! I think my pony will enjoy his little well-deserved vacation as well:D

Monday, May 17, 2010

Musings on how to make my goal happen ...

Decided that for my current goal, show wise, I want to ride in a Horse Trial at the Chattahoochee Hills Eventing facility October 29-31st. Spent Sunday at the Area III eventing championships, and was just SO excited at the thought of galloping around the beautiful farm. I saw lots of beautiful horses, nice turnout, riders that really praised their horses, and a SUPER FUN looking course! Of course ... the BN stuff looked HUGE, and definitely asked some tough questions. I'm sure the table jumps were max height, wide, and very solid. The latter half of the course had a big, wide table jump to a combination of a log rolltop to a ditch; then a gallop to a cabin; then another rolltop log jumping RIGHT towards the water complex. It was only about 4 strides into the water, then another big table jump coming out. There were a few random freestanding jumps, then a drop off a bank, and a gallop up a ramp, down a ramp, and out over ANOTHER of one of those huge table jumps, lol. I'm telling y'all, so long as my horse jumped without hesitation, it would ride SO FUN! So, there it is. My next goal:)

Thursday, I walked hills bareback. Today, continued where we left off the other day, and I worked on committing to LET GO of his face. He did NOT feel stiff, trot felt really nice. Canter transitions were great, just once we got there he wants to lose a little impulsion and lean a bit. Had my same jumps set on the center diagonal; a 2'9 vertical and a 2'6 vertical with a blue barrel under it. Turned my low bounce cavs into my 3' stack jump, and warmed up by trotting into the barrel jump. I've decided to work on asking him to trust me and be BRAVE to the jump, so I'm going to try not to show him too much for now. He didn't even give it a bat of an eye, just hopped right over. Did that again, then cantered around the 3 jumps SEVERAL times, getting a flying change when needed, and trying to half halt and get him straight without hanging on him. As we continuted jumping, I could feel him getting flat to the jumps and speeding up. SAT down, half halted, and it felt better. Let him catch his breath, then decided to trot the 3 jumps to finish because one of the pieces of advice I've gotten to get him jumping xc jumps well is to TROT in. Uh, it may only be 2'7 max, but those suckers look HUGE! So, trotted the barrel (perfect), then the 2'9 (perfect), then (gulp) the cav oxer. He was GREAT over it:) I could feel how much more round he was over it; certainly took care of our 'too flat' problem. I feel some more trot jumps in our future:)

Leaving FRIDAY for our annual cruise! We get back the 29th, then it's a benefit trail ride at the amazing Foxhall Farms on June 5. The next weekend, it's the JEFF COOK clinic, yee haw! Can't wait:) Hoping to squeeze another visit to Calimar Farm in there at some point to play in the xc field again:D

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

One of those lightbulb days ...

So, I gave my cross country rock star Monday off, and decided on Tuesday that since I was riding the Princess in draw reins to conserve my life, it was time to slap the draw reins on the Tiki man and REALLY have a good, solid flat day. As an aside, I have made the coolest draw reins. They USED to literally be yellow nylon boat rope that I tied onto the ring in the center of my girth. I have upgraded to a poly braided rope (exactly like a lead rope, but a smaller diameter) and tied snaps on to the ends. Voila! Instant draw reins.

He felt very stiff, and like he hadn't had a good flat school in awhile. Hmmm ... he HASN'T had a good flat school in awhile;) Picked up the trot, and it was quick and choppy, and he was the definition of going nowhere fast. Tapped him behind with my crop (since I'm SURE Jeff Cook is oldschool and would like everyone to have a crop and spurs, I've been forcing myself to get used to carrying a crop again), and I succeeded in making his feet move even FASTER, wow! Anyway, after some circles, flexing him into my knee both ways, and some transitions, he finally settled into a decent rhythm. Cantered, and he felt REALLY forward for some reason. Cantered a few circles, schooled a lead change, and just felt like I was PHYSICALLY holding him up. I hate draw reins, I really do, but I do think they help to get him to remember how to flex well at the poll.

Cantered a little course of poles on the ground. I felt like I arm wrestled him straight after every single one. He got quicker to every pole, and just wanted to motorcycle around the corners. Good Lord. By the time I called it a day, my arms were aching, but I felt OK about the ride. That's obviously the eventing challenge. The horses that have a blast galloping through the woods and jumping big fences NOW have to focus and remember their "ring manners" and go softly and carefully around a stadium course. He'll get there:)

Today was a COMPLETELY different story, and hence, the lightbulb moment. I was reading C-Horse eventing's blog a few days ago, and she was talking about the elusive chase of self carriage, and how she preaches about it to her clients and students, but then promptly forgets about herself and lets her horse lean on her like crazy. Uh duh, what had I JUST DONE yesterday? Totally held him up and NEVER let him go, of course. So, today I had the 'just let GO' quest. And let me just say, for the record, letting go WORKS. My horse was so lovely, so soft, so willing, and so flexible today I just wanted to cry. His trot work was so lovely; rhythmic, fluid, and forward but not fast. I worked on collecting (easy), and extending (darn near impossible), and felt like he made a really great effort. Did LOTS of circles, focusing on HALF HALTING and NOT holding him up through the circle. Wow, what a difference! Performed some lovely turns on the forehand, had some kicka$$ canter transitions, and overall felt like my horse was just a lovely little rubberband.

Did a Practical Horseman exercise (but with a pole instead of a jump). Set a pole on "X", near the end of the ring. Cantered a circle around it several times, then cantered a circle over it, working on maintaining his shape and pace. It was so nice. SO nice. Again with the half halts and NOT holding him up, and he was just amazing ... in BOTH directions, yay! By this time, he had worked up quite a nice sweat:) What a good boy. Where I had poles yesterday, I set up a 2'9 vert, and his first ever bright blue barrel jump. I layed it down in the center of the standards, and placed a pole over it. It was 2'6. I let him see it, and he didn't seem too terribly concerned. Cantered through a bounce to a 1 (low cavs) as my warmup, then cantered in to the barrel jump with my brain ready to use the crop on approach if I felt him back off to it. Totally unnecessary, because he hopped right over it, no problem. Worked on my new found resolve to half halt, and did NOT hold him up through the turn. I just went back and forth in a figure 8 pattern over the 2 jumps, working on seeing a distance, maintaining my rhythm, half halting, and getting a flying change if needed. When I quit, I had only gotten a little deep once, and he jumped like a star.

Gave him a nice liniment bath since he worked so hard, and plan to do a nice, easy day of hills tomorrow.:)

Sunday, May 9, 2010


That is all I can say. I had this ... vision, of how I thought things would go. I would point and shoot, and he would take me to the jump and LOVE it. That was how I pictured things going. Of course, lurking deep in the subconscious is that fear that he would be spooky, suck back all the way to the jump, stop, and leap. It's a legitimate fear; he's done it before. And I've fallen off before because of the stop and leap, off Audrey. It's not a pleasant feeling. Having fallen off the princess recently, that persistant little devil nagged at me, giving me a little nervous twitch at the thought of ending up parting ways with the Tiki boy.

First of all, he loaded like a CHAMP. Becca's trailer is a step up straigh load, and we didn't even open both doors, and he just walked right up on it, no problem! So that boded well for our outing.:) Found the farm no problem, unloaded the boys, and hopped on. He did do the 'cold backed' thing, and backed up rapidly as I climbed into the saddle. I guess I need to make sure to let him move around and walk some before mounting. The farm is broken up into 3 huge, rolling pastures. The right side seemed the most inviting; smaller natural logs, my cavaletti stack jump, etc. Going from that field to the middle field, were 2 ditches; one REALLY small, the other about 2 feet wide. In the middle field were 2 bank complexes (one small, the other a little bigger), a few taller suspended log jumps, a scary tabletop looking jump, a train made of barrels, and some other bigger jumps I wouldn't think of jumping:) The left side contained a water complex, some adorable log cabin jumps, and some pretty big coop jumps. So, we started on the right, and made our way to the water.

Warmed up over the smallest log we could find. Perfect:) He took me to it just as I thought he would. Did it again other way, and perfect again. Becca went, and her horse Captain gave it quite a generous clearing;) Decided to string a few together. Jumped the log, turned right and jumped a pair of bigger suspended logs in 3 strides, then continued right to the cav stack. Perfect:) THEN the ditch, lol. That was amusing. It was defined by landscaping timbers, and he WAS looky. It took a little bit to get him close to it, then I walked up to it, and he didn't jump. Secretly, I was glad because I didn't want the BIG jump over. Turned back to it, came with a little bigger walk, encouraged with my spur, and he went over this time. YAY! Lots of praise and pats. Captain took a few tries as well, and he again overachieved, good boy! Came back over a few times at the trot, and he did it with a peek, but he did it. Sooo ... moved on to the center.

Jumped a few more suspended logs, and a bit of a scary, spooky log. He was a good boy. Now, the bank. Being Hunter Princesses, neither one of us had a CLUE of what to expect. So, we walked up to it to look, and Tiki just walked right on up! Ok, so THAT'S how you do it, lol. Pats and praise, and Captain figured it out as well. Decided to trot up to it, he hopped up no problem. Cantered in, and not only did he jump up well, he threw in a few little "YEE HAWS" after! OK, now the down. Walked to it, put leg on, and he looked down but that was it. I looked at Becca and said, "Hmm. I'm kind of scared." Whatever. Walked a circle, came up to it again, and squeezed with the spur; he hopped right off, no problem. Came around to it one more time, and off he went, perfect:) Decided to do a slightly bigger suspended log with some lattice work, and a lot of brush. The brush wasn't on purpose, it hadn't been groomed recently. He jumped it, but did hesitate a LITTLE. No biggie, though. We moved on.

The train made out of barrels. I'd seen a pic of this jump on the website, and wanted to jump it. When we FIRST walked into the pasture, I let him see it. He snorted and blew at it. Walked up to it again, and he nosed it, looking bored. I looked at Becca. "Tell me I can do this. Tell me my horse can jump this." She did, so I circled around, picked up the left lead canter, and he jumped it! I was so happy. Came back on it, and he was good again:) Now the scary looking table top type jump. It wasn't super wide, but it was very solid looking. Let him see it; he perked his ears pretty heavily at it, but wasn't too scared. Cantered up to it, and he felt a little looky over it, but he went. Strung together the table and the train, and he was a superstar. Made our way over to the final section of pasture.

Jumped a pretty big looking coop that was made of open logs. Went up to the log cabin. He was a bit scared of that. REALLY spooking at it, didn't want to get too close, and was pretty distracted by the water that was right there. At that moment, the owners came in on their horses, and his attention was now divided by about half. Presented him to the cabin numerous times until he didn't spook at it, but chose not to attempt to jump it because I didn't want to ruin the good I'd done. Came up with a course to do from the right side all the way back to the left.

Began with the suspended log we'd warmed up over, to the log combination (which I think is actually a 2, but we still did 3), to the stack (which felt great), to the ditch (eeek! A scramble and leap) to the bigger one he'd sort of hesitated over. Sadly, coming into that one, he was cantering RIGHT at the owners, and backed off all the way to the jump, stopped, then thought about jumping from a standstill. I pulled him up, waited until they were out of eyesite, circled around to it, and it was yucky:( Grabbed mane, but it was a yuck jump. Continued to the train which was good, to the table the opposite way which was yuck. I hadn't presented the jump to him that direction, and he backed off pretty hard core then jumped way up and over. Turned to the spooky log and it was good, to the bank which was WEEE, to the coop which was yuck. Didn't want to end on a crappy jump, so circled back to the coop again and it was good. Finished by playing in the water. It did take a minute to get the boys in. Both of them were pretty suspicious and spooky. Alternating spur pressure pretty far behind the girth got him in. Once in, he was FINE. Pawing, pawing, pawing:) Captain finally came in as well, and pawed too. Went to leave out, and he didn't want to leave, lol! Came back in, then out. Again. Trotted in then out, then again (Cap followed this time), again, and we were done.

I was STOKED, HAPPY, PLEASED, etc. He was a perfect rock star, as good as I could have hoped. Becca and I had a GREAT time, and will definitely go back. My plans for a horse trial in a few months is still on:) He really gained some great confidence. He had a lovely little hand gallop, which is why the long course was only about 50% good. He took me a little past the distance, then got too deep to some of them. With experience and a more accurate rider ride, he'll get there. Had such a good time, I can't wait to go again!:)

Friday, May 7, 2010

About to cross over to the dark side!

I am so excited I could bust. Sunday Tiki and I are going cross country schooling for the first time, YAY!!!!!!!! Bought a vest, new gloves, and a new foam pad for the tiki boy ... just PRAY that he is as awesome as I think he's going to be. Rode him the other day walking hills, and he still looked a little ouchy. Rode again the next day, and he took a few down right OFF steps:( Got on and worked a little, and he seemed to work out of it. Didn't jump anything; but we did ride the Beginner Novice Test A dressage test. It was FUN! And he was great. I'm not worried about that aspect of our Horse Trial adventure at all. Oh, did I forget to mention? My newest goal (after the Jeff Cook clinic) is to compete in a Beginner Novice horse trial. Not sure when, or where, but it's a goal.:)

Been riding Audrey and Sedona, and it's HARD. Audrey has come into season, and I feel as though she has just regressed to where she was 6 months ago. Spooky, distracted, and jumpy as all get out. Sedona is tough because he is what he is, and his head wants to go WAY up, which makes his back so hollow. He was a good boy today, but was a BUTT walking hills a few days ago. Oh well, his owner will be back Sunday!

Tacked up muffin man today, and I'm pleased to report he looked 100%. Tried out a new foam protective pad for his back, and I'm fairly pleased by the sweat marks. He felt good and happy in it, which is a good thing. Rode him in the front pasture where he hasn't been in AGES and he was SO good, lol. We did trot sets today, and he was happy to be doing something different. He snorted in time to his trotting, ha ha. Will TRY to hop on him tomorrow, but I have to do Sedona and Audrey AND teach for 5 hours, so not sure if I'll get to him. Will report back with lots of pics after Sunday!:)

The pic at the top of this post is Sedona; check out that developed underneck muscle. He literally has his head THAT high most of the time while I'm riding him. Ugh.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fun with crayons part 2 ...

Finally rode my muffin man. I could tell he hasn't been ring worked in 2 weeks. He felt really stiff and not 100% sound. He got new shoes on Friday, and for some reason, he's always a little ouchy for a few days afterwards:( And plus, his back shoe was off for a week, so I'm not the least surprised he felt a little wonky today. Rode Sedona first, and HE was much better than the other day. We just have to get into a little rhythm; I am TOTALLY different than his owner, but he was a good boy today.

The Tiki man was pretty stiff, and felt about 90% sound. He felt just a little bit short and off. Again, no surprise, so I kept things easy. He was lazy, as usual, and I had forgotten again to put my spurs on:( Nagged him with my leg, smacked him with my hand, and he went on. At the canter, he really leaned in HARD. Cantered a few circles, trotted a few circles, and he started to feel more in the "groove". Trotted a cavaletti, cantered the cavelletti, and that felt great. Ended there for now. Won't ride tomorrow because torrential storms are coming in tonight, and won't ride Tuesday because I'm going with my friend Nicole to the GIHP at Conyers. Plan to ride the remainder of the week. Had planned to go cross country schooling for the first time on Mother's Day, but the friend I was going with broke her ankle yesterday:( Haven't decided yet if I'm going to attempt to borrow a trailer and try to go it alone. Guess I'll see how the weather shapes up for the rest of the week.
Nicole drew a cool "MOM" tattoo on his forearm. Goes along with his "punk" persona!:D